By then Mr. Dutton was something of a celebrity in South Africa. He often drew comparisons with a long list of crime fighters, real and fictional: Eliot Ness for his unimpeachability, Frank Serpico for his willingness to take on crooked cops and the television detective Columbo for his casual, sometimes disheveled demeanor that put witnesses at ease and threw adversaries off their game.
“He was seen as one of the few honest cops with courage and dedication to justice and getting the job done,” Mr. Varney, who as a human rights lawyer worked closely with Mr. Dutton, said. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s the finest detective that this country has ever produced.”
The South African government agreed. In 2012 he and Mr. Magadla, who had died in 2011, received the Order of the Baobab in Gold, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Frank Kennan Dutton was born on May 20, 1949, in Bela-Bela, a town about two hours north of Johannesburg, the son of Terry and Dorothy Dutton.
He is survived by his wife, Vanessa; his brothers Tub and Robin and his sister, Polly; his children Sally Ackerman, Paul and Brian; and seven grandchildren.
He attended Boys’ Town, a school for troubled youth, in Magaliesburg, on the western outskirts of Johannesburg, and joined South Africa’s national police force in 1966. After a year of police college in Pretoria, he was deployed to Natal Province (known today as KwaZulu Natal).
Early on he developed a reputation as an assiduous cop unafraid to butt heads with an insular, self-protective leadership. He also stood out for his willingness to partner with Black officers, even in the face of overt discrimination — when he and Mr. Magadla went out of town on assignment, they would often sleep in a jail cell, for lack of a hotel that would accommodate both of them.